Saturday, August 27, 2011

TUSKA - 7/23/11 at Suvilahti, Helsinki, Finland

So, I know this is very late, but one thing or another has conspired to keep me from typing it up ever since the event and since I got back from Finland. Now I have some other concert reviews piling up, so I need to get this posted, and expect a few more posts in quick succession.

So. I believe Tuska is Finland's largest metal festival, held each summer in Helsinki for three days (I only went for one day, though, because the tickets were so expensive). In the past, I think it has drawn some performers from overseas, but this year the line-up was mostly Finnish, with several Swedish visitors and a smattering of other European bands. Oh and Devin Townsend Project, which I believe is from Australia. The biggest names there - off the top of my head, and with considerable bias according to my tastes - were Amon Amarth, Blind Guardian, Epica, Amorphis, Wintersun, Turisas.. I could go on and on.

I went on Saturday, the middle day. Most of the big names like Amon Amarth, Amorphis and Turisas performed on Sunday, but I chose Saturday because I already saw Amon Amarth and Turisas earlier this year, and on Saturday I would have the chance to see Wintersun and Moonsorrow.

Tuska used to be held at a park called Kaisaniemi, but this year it was in what seemed to be an old industrial location called Suvilahti. It was very convenient to the metro - you literally walk about 100 feet from the Kalasatama metro station, following the stream of metallic looking people. I got there early in the day, about 1pm, and there was no line to speak of at the gates. The space inside the area felt a little small, maybe because the arrangement of the vendors and merch booths, food stands and stages created some sort of narrow, winding areas with large open areas only in front of the main and second stage. However, it did not feel cramped, even in the evening when the crowds got bigger, but then again the festival wasn't sold out either.

Facilities at the venue were excellent. There was a veritable maze of portapotties, with no line. There were a couple water fountains for drinking and refilling water bottles. The lines for food and merch were not too long (wait about 5 minutes) and moved fast, especially the line for the Alepa (convenience store) kiosk. The only long waits were at the signing booth, where I waited an hour each of the two times I went (for Wintersun and Epica). The Alepa kiosk was great - you could get sandwiches, ice cream, energy drinks and other basic supplies for very good prices there. (I read on the Tuska website that the prices were the same as in regular Alepa stores around Helsinki. Mad props to Alepa for doing that, it made being at the fest all day much more economical \m/) The area was pretty clean, compared to what I'd seen on the news a few days earlier about a big gathering in a park in Helsinki or Turku, with trash everywhere - at Tuska, there were just cigarette butts everywhere, and a few cans.

I loved the relaxed atmosphere - my favorite part of the day had to be sitting on the ground in the shade of this huge domed thing, eating something called "kebab" which was really not a kebab at all, with a bunch of people I didn't know but felt totally cool with, all while watching Blind Guardian perform not too far away on the main stage. I didn't talk to many people - as I well exemplify, Finnish people are kind of taciturn and not given to small talk - but I felt very comfortable. The Finnish metal scene has a strong goth/industrial edge, so I fit in better than at metal shows in the US ;D

So now to the actual bands. The entire list of performers and schedule for the day can still be found on the Tuska website (and when they can't anymore, well, I guess it means it's time to move on and think about Tuska 2012 XD) I shall just go through the bands that I actually saw and/or was interested in.

Witchery - They were onstage when I got through the winding corridor of vendor booths, and I sort of watched the with one eye while buying stuff at the merch stand (T-shirts!!) and then waiting for Wintersun at the signing booth. They were fast and heavy though not particularly remarkable.

Medeia - Just as I stepped away from the signing booth, it started to rain, and a bunch of people headed into the building where the fourth stage was (only that and the third stage, which was in a huge tent, were covered). I was going in there anyway since it was time for Medeia to start. Medeia is a death metal band from Finland with hilarious videos. This video is my favorite. I don't think they're well known abroad but they definitely had a lot of enthusiastic fans at Tuska. Their riffs were kind of simple but the guitars were very heavy. The last song they played sounded like thunder - always a good sign for a metal band. (I just wish I'd written down which song it was because now I have no recollection >.<)

Moonsorrow - A pagan/folk metal band with a very strong influence from Finnish folk music in particular, which is rare compared to the more jig-like Scandinavian/Celtic sound that a lot of folk metal bands use. Their songs are long and often slow, although in a good way (I think) because of the melodies and folk elements. "Kivenkantaja" (The Stone Carrier) was a crowd favorite. For the first time, I realized the (apparent) influence from Finnish shaman chants - when the vocalist starts in, the guitars, not just the drums, even seemed to imitate the sound a of shaman's drum. Starting from this song, their set got heavier, which made me happy.

Katatonia - Wandered out to see them partway through their set after a having a snack. They were a little lite for my taste. A person who started randomly talking to me said they used to have a heavier sound but their singer damaged his voice and can't do growls anymore, thus the classic metal sound.

Wintersun - Obviously, they were epic. Jari Mäenpää is a god to many Finnish metal fans - though he seemed like a regular dude when I asked him to sign a t-shirt for a friend of mine, maybe a little aloof but what Finnish person isn't? (Digression, you could definitely feel the difference in national personalities between Wintersun and Epica, the former being civil, smiling and perhaps chatting a little with you if you started the conversation; the latter joking, hitting people with flyswatters and all around out to have a good time.) Anyway, so Wintersun was not very heavy but they were FAST. The guitars were sometimes so fast and complicated that it was hard to headbang. They were easily the best performance of the day.

Blind Guardian - As I said before, I listened to them while eating dinner XD I would have been more enthused if it weren't for the fact that I saw BG last December (battling a nasty nasty cold to go the show, too). I was walking away toward the signing booth when "Valhalla" started and I had to back and sing along (best BG sing-along song EVER). I listened to them more while waiting for Epica. As at Jaxx last December, they gave a solid performance and played all the crowd-pleasers like "Valhalla," "The Bard's Song," "Nightfall" and so on.

Enslaved - After BG finished, while I was still waiting for Epica, stages 2 and 3 started up at the same time, and I couldn't make out much except when one of the bands stopped to talk. After getting another shirt signed for another friend, I went to listen to Enslaved while eating ice cream. (What's better than eating something yummy while watching awesome metal? Well, I suppose not eating while watching so that you can HEADBANG or MOSH.) Enslaved, I found out, is an epic Swedish death metal band in the vein of Amon Amarth. Strong melodies and epic riffs. I liked their last song, "Allfadr Odin" so much that I chose to headbang, rather than use the portapotty before dashing out to the metro for a two hour bus ride back to Turku.

Since my mom and I opted for the 9:00 bus (which would let us get back to Turku before midnight), I didn't get to hear Devin Townsend Project (as it was, I just barely made it to the bus terminal in time; but luckily there was a very clean and functional toilet in the back of the bus :D). And I definitely didn't get to go to the afterclub, where Turmion Kätilöt, one of my favorite Finnish industrial metal bands, would have been performing. But as my aunt said, "Leave something for next time!"

Hopefully, next time will be Tuska 2012, just waiting to see who the performers will be, and figure out a way to get airline tickets.... O.o

Next reviews: I have a review of KMFDM already typed up, and need to do one for Blackguard who we saw headlining this past Wednesday. I hope I can get those up before we head out to see Blackguard, Alestorm and Kamelot tonight - braving a hurricane no less!

I will also later proofread this post and add links to wonderfully awesome live vids from the festival....